Fleece quality variation is a primary factor when processing alpaca fibre into end products.
Uniformity of fibre quality and product consistency are the keys to a successful fibre industry.
Best-use shearing practice, thorough skirting and proper sorting of fleeces at harvest time guarantees uniform quality fibre and provides consistency for the processor.
Fleece growing on an alpaca differs in areas in micron (fineness), staple length and colour.
Stains, heavy vegetation and guard hair as well as very coarse fibre (lower leg, belly) add to the make up of fleeces. Skirting away stains, most of the vegetation and other debris deliver a cleaner fleece for more cost effective processing. Separating the differing sections of fleece according to their attributes avoids spoiling the better parts which carries forward to the end product.
Desirable characteristics for alpaca fibre are:
Sorting the fleece sections according to fineness, length colour and degree of guard hair achieves uniformity in fineness and staple length, desirable absence of guard hair and consistency in colour for maximum benefit. Meeting these criteria should be the goal of the producer. Deviations in micron (i.e. more than 3) and in length (more than 2") can cause major spinning problems for the processor. Excessive short fibres and second cuts create noils, which will decrease the quality and quantity of the yarn. Guard hair is a major source of the "prickle factor", tends to shed and doesn't dye well.
Processors should receive clean, uniform lines of fibre (fineness, length) with good tensile strength and in as large batches as possible for cost effective processing into quality yarn.
Canadian alpaca breeders benefit from the services of many custom fibre mills across the country.
Custom mills offer various services and may have differing requirements to process alpaca fibre. Contacting the mills and asking questions avoids disappointment and offers some assurance you will get what you envisioned or expected. Some points you may want to find out are:
For a free Canadian Alpaca Guide providing information about alpaca care, fibre production and more, including a national breeder directory, please complete the request form.